mouse on the kitchen table

Although you might think mice are cute and furry, you probably don’t want them living in your home or garage. They can carry hard-to-pronounce diseases and cause property damage. Plus, they leave little droppings all around.

A small problem can quickly get out of hand. Mice can have eight litters a year, with five to six young per litter. That means one female mouse can produce 48 young in one year — and think of all the babies her young can breed!

You can take alternative approaches to rid your home of mice, and many of them are effective long-term strategies. Even if you don’t have mice in your home now, it is a good idea to follow strategies one and two to prevent a mouse infestation before it starts.

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Strategy 1 – Make Your Home Difficult for Mice to Enter

Unfortunately, our homes are attractive to mice because they can provide shelter and food. Just as you might make your house an unattractive target for thieves, you can make it difficult to penetrate for rodents. Steel wool is an excellent tool because mice can’t chew through it.

Go around the exterior and interior of your home and look for any slits or holes that are ½ inch or larger. Basically, this would be anything that is the size of a dime or larger. Fill up these gaps with steel wool and then apply caulk to seal them up.

If there are vents on a crawl space or around an HVAC system, seal up any gaps. A prime location is where pipes run through the wall. Mice are very agile and are good climbers. Finally, if you have vines or non-structural architectural features that run up and down your home, remove them if possible.

If you already have mice in your home, examine places where mice can go from room to room within the home, especially into the kitchen or pantry, where you are likely to store food. One common route is along pipes, so check wherever pipes penetrate a wall, such as under a sink, and seal up any holes.

brown mouse eating a cracker
Easy to access food will attract mice, so secure any animal feed and locate bird feeders away from the house. Photo: Gaertringen, Pixabay

Strategy 2 – Be a Poor Host and Don’t Feed These Unwanted Visitors

If you have bird feeders, birdseed, animal feed, or other food sources on the outside of your home or in a garage, this will help attract mice to your home. If possible, relocate a bird feeder far from the house — 50 or more feet away. Avoid feeding pets outdoors, especially if they don’t eat all the food at once or leave some residue. Store pet food, animal feed, and birdseed in metal bins with tight-fitting lids, and beware of spilling when you access the containers.

Unfortunately, backyard chickens and compost piles can be a source of food for rodents. To prevent this, put chicken feed away at night, consider buying a rat-proof chicken feeder or making one from a 5-gallon bucket. Also, follow these steps to keep them out of your compost pile.

Strategy 3 – Use No-Kill Mousetraps

Mice often walk along walls when they scamper around. Thus, placing box traps along the base of the wall is an excellent way to catch the little critters in action. Some of them don’t require bait, are big enough so you can snag multiple mice in one trap, and are reusable many times. So, you can knock out a serious infestation more quickly and without buying numerous items.

Another option is to make or buy a bucket trap. These devices use a 5-gallon bucket and bate to lure the mouse or even small rats onto a lid. If they step in the right location, the rodent tilts the top and falls into the bucket. These traps are also reusable and can catch multiple mice.

Here is a simple DIY no-kill mousetrap you can make at home using a 5-gallon bucket. If you have the time, experiment with different designs to see which one works best.

Unfortunately, using a no-kill mousetrap does require relocating the mice to a more appealing location far from your home. If you don’t do this, the mice might be right back in your home again. Also, if the mice stay in the trap too long (without food), they will die. Therefore, this approach does require a time commitment and checking the traps regularly.

If you do end up using a trap that kills the mice, the snap traps usually kill the mice quickly. The same is not true for glue traps, which lead to a longer death than snap traps, causing the mouse to suffer. Glue traps are also more likely to catch other species that aren’t of concern. Snap traps — and especially poison — can be harmful to pets and children. Poisoned mice may die and rot in the walls, creating odor and bacteria issues. Also, other animals can eat the poisoned mouse and become sick.

Strategy 4 – Spray Peppermint Essential Oils

Supposedly, mice hate the smell of peppermint, and the scent irritates their nasal passages. So spraying something that contains peppermint essential oils can cause mice to move out. Keep in mind, this spray could hamper plans to catch mice in traps. So, use the spray where you don’t plan to locate traps.

Like the bucket trap, you could either buy a spray or go DIY. If you purchase a spray, make sure you look for a natural, nontoxic peppermint oil spray.

To make a mouse repellent spray, combine 2 teaspoons of peppermint essential oil with 1 cup of water and add a couple of drops of dishwashing detergent. Another approach is to use undiluted peppermint oil on cotton balls and place them around your home.

Strategy 5 – Try Ultrasonic Mouse Repellers

If effective, this is one of the simplest and most humane ways to rid your home of mice. These devices plug into an outlet and supposedly produce a high-frequency sound that isn’t supposed to bother pets yet repels rodents.

The jury is still out on how effective they are. Some people swear by them, while others say they are complete junk. Typically, ultrasonic mouse repellers don’t work through walls, so you may need one unit for each room; large rooms might need multiple devices. They do consume a bit of electricity, but it does seem worthwhile if they are effective.

Hopefully, these strategies will get you well on your way to a mouse-free home. Often, it is necessary to use a few of these approaches to completely solve an existing problem. Yet, applying the first two strategies might be enough to prevent a mouse infestation from developing.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.